A GRIP ON SPORTS
Watching a sporting event like the Ryder Cup takes an investment. An investment of time, lots of time. There are matches all day Friday, all day Saturday and then most of the day on Sunday. But the investment is worth it, because of the payoff at the end. All you heard on Friday and Saturday, as the U.S. team built an “insurmountable” lead was how this was quite possibly the greatest Ryder Cup team of all time. So, when the U.S. took a 10-2 lead late Saturday afternoon, the outcome had been determined. In about 24 hours, we could all sit in front of our television sets and bask in the glow of a dominating American win. To turn a phrase Bubba Watson would be comfortable with, the eggs hadn't been hatched yet, but it was OK to count the chickens. Ya, right. Read on.
• In my nearly 56 years on this planet, I can honestly say I've been exhilarated by sports many times. Personal accomplishments, like winning championships, meld with teams-I-root-for accomplishments, like Ken Griffey scoring from first or Kirk Gibson's home run, coming together in a tapestry of joy that keeps me warm in my old age. But really, for every moment of joy, there have probably been two or three epochs of disappointment. Maybe it's because I remember them better or because the teams I root for or played on rarely win. Whatever the reason, I've been disappointed often over the years, left mumbling meaningless phrases like “wait for next year” or “at least they tried hard.” But yesterday was different. Maybe it was the time I invested, more than I've ever put in for a golf event. Or maybe it was because of the early U.S. dominance. Or maybe it was because I saw this coming Saturday, when U.S. captain Davis Love decided to sit his emotional force, the pairing of Phil Mickelson (above) and Keegan Bradley, two unlikely engines of the U.S. lead. Love had gone into the Cup with a plan, a plan that included sitting everyone at least once in the first two days so they would be rested on Sunday for the singles. My guess he formulated it just so he could sit Tiger Woods and not bruise the aging star's ego (“Tiger, I'm going to sit everyone once; it's nothing personal and has nothing to do with your not very good anymore”). But Mickelson and Bradley were so dominate (they were 3-0 and hardly challenged), it made sense to keep them on the course and go for the throat. Instead Love threw Tiger and Steve Stricker (or as they should be known, the Bagel Boys) on the course again, allowing the struggling European duo of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald not only to earn a much-needed point, but to build momentum as well. But the U.S. team was well-rested headed into Sunday. And had time to practice. How much did that matter? Well, Rory McIlroy, who played all five matches, misread his Sunday tee time, had to race to the course under trooper escort (as an aside, the trooper that volunteered to get McIlroy to the course should be fired today; if McIlroy had missed his time the U.S. would have won and sportsmanship should only go so far), didn't get to warm-up, let alone practice, and still defeated the well-rested Bradley 2 and 1. As the Europeans started their comeback, the anticipation of a celebration in front of the TV began to fade. With every choked putt (it is hard to swing the putter with both hands around your neck), with every improbable scramble by the Euros, the mood in the basement began to resemble a funeral, except with a lot more cussing. Finally, I gave up and turned to football. But by then the Seahawks had already blown the game in St. Louis (more disappointment) and the Packers were winning (even more). And for some reason, maybe the same one that makes you slow down passing a wreck, I would return to the Ryder Cup, hoping beyond hope Tiger or Phil or even Stricker had done something special to lift my spirits. It was not to be. So when Martin Kaymer (Martin Kaymer!) dunked his 6-foot putt to keep the Cup, I hung my head. Once again, just like in the 1969 Little League All-Star tournament, just like the 1995 and 2001 American League Championship Series, just like so many other times in my sporting life, there was no joy in Mudville. The team I was rooting for had just struck out. Again. … To cap off the special memories from yesterday, I am passing along some stories from the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times, stories that attempt to share the depth of the choking that occurred Sunday. I'm not sure Ernie Hemmingway could have accurately described how bad it was.
• Washington State: We will resist the urge to connect the dots from the above paragraph with this one (we are not that mean), but Christian Caple did have some thoughts last night on the Cougars loss to Oregon as well as a story in this morning's paper and a blog post. … WSU, as it has much of the last four-plus seasons, resides at the bottom of Ted Miller's Pac-12 power rankings.
• Idaho: Got a note from a colleague yesterday letting me know I'm forgetting one of the best teams in the WAC: Sonny Dykes' (left) undefeated Louisiana Tech team. My response: I know about the Bulldogs, but I just can't find any free stories about them to pass along. So today I went looking for something to link. And I found this piece in the Shreveport Times. Not a lot on the Bulldogs, but something. No worries, though. Like all the other winning WAC teams, they'll be in another conference this time next year. … Utah State is going for the Utah state title this weekend. After already defeating Utah, the Aggies get a shot at BYU.
• Seahawks: Let's see. Four Ram field goals, two of them from franchise-record distance. A fake field goal that turns into a touchdown. Yep, the Seahawks' defense was manhandled in their 19-13 loss at St. Louis yesterday. No, not really. The difference in the game was the play of quarterback Russell Wilson, whose three interceptions and ineffective passing has taken what was left of his preseason Golden Boy luster. Most of the discussion this morning centers around the quarterback position and whether it's time for Pete Carroll to make a change.
• Mariners: The A's are fighting for the postseason – add another plank in my raft of disappointment for this year – and it showed this weekend as they swept the playing-out-the-string Mariners. … There was a bright spot or two (is it time for a “wait 'til next year?”)
• That's our Monday morning report. Luckily, there aren't any sporting events today I have emotions invested in. I don't think I could take anymore disappointment. Until later …